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Opposites attract when dealing with magnets. It is not that simple with humans. There are many stories of individuals who shared little in common and yet thrived when connected; much has also been written when the opposite occurred. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in the entertainment business and Bill and Melinda Gates in technology fit the bill in the latter case, while Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in sports and the “Ragin Cajun” (James Carville) and Mary Matalin in politics have overcome their differences to enjoy long lasting relationships. Putting the secular aside, what does the Bible say about opposite characters overcoming their fleshly nature to join forces in behalf of His kingdom?
It has been drawn and painted by Rembrandt and Rubens, adapted by Shakespeare, cast in ballet form by Prokofiev and sung by Hank Williams. The prodigal son is easily the most detailed, dramatic and personal of all Jesus’ parables. It skillfully describes a rich young man discontent with all his earthly father has to offer, departing with and subsequently losing his inheritance, and returning home with “his tail between his legs” when eating swine food finally took its toll. All the while, his older brother remained home by his father’s side doing the work of both, never imagining the reception Junior would receive upon his return from self-exile; certainly a picture of sons with opposite priorities and personalities.
In steps the father, who never wavered as the righteous parent of the one who failed and of the one that would follow suit. As the dad showed pure joy in welcoming back his lost child, the brother, unmoved by the grace shown by Senior, instead expressed bitter resentment not only toward the brother, but most importantly towards “the old man.” The central theme of the parable exposes the repentance of the sinner, the divine grace of the Father, and the hostility and unforgiving nature of those who follow the Law. Not even God’s grace was sufficient in bridging the gap between a patient father and an unbelieving son. As Christians, we see here the wages of sin, the repentance of sinners and the goodness of God.
Opposite, yet Equal
They belonged to the same team, one was picked first while the other last, both were given positions within the team that “raised eyebrows” given their experience level and education, yet they successfully engaged despite being cast out of their element. One was a passionate “by the seat of your pants” commoner, the other a highly educated methodical juggernaut, yet they blended their talents almost seamlessly for the betterment of the organization and consequently became the heart and face of the movement. In time, they would individually lead the team’s two departments, and despite the vast differences in the dual client base, achieved an unimaginable cohesion that has stood the test of time. Peter, the apostle to the Jewish believers, and Paul, the leader of the Gentile church, were fleshly opposites but spiritual equals. Not even their disagreements regarding circumcision and kosher food were able to disrupt the merger of two disparate groups into what today is the Church.
One of the “advantages” of my heathen lifestyle was the flexibility of friendships, given my motto was “discard when no longer needed.” Since I joined the “team,” however, not only is that method obsolete but the opposite holds true. The Lord made it very clear to me when he commanded, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciple if you love one another.” Although most of my Christian brethren fall within the category of Peter and Paul, there remains a scattering of Prodigals and Provoked. Yet, he calls me to love ALL those He has given me with patience, kindness and gentleness. And this becomes easier to accomplish with every passing day as I am reminded that although God’s character is opposite to mine, He did not discard me but instead redeemed me. For, if He loved and saved a wretched soul like me, how can I disdain those He strategically gave me to do the Christian life? I can’t and I won’t……with His help.
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